Wed, Jul 16, 2008 11:11 AM EDT

ucirvinemed.jpgAllen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times Just down the street from our Oakland office, University of California service employees who earn as little as $10 hour are protesting for living wages in front of the office of the new UC President, a man who pulls in $942,642 a year in total compensation. After 10 months of working without a contract, and despite a court order barring them from striking, workers began their 5-day strike on Monday. Their requests are simple, and most of all, reasonable. What the 20,000 gardeners, janitors, cooks, and hospital workers want is to earn enough to meet their basic needs. About 96% of these union workers qualify for public assistance like food stamps and WIC, even though they work for one of the best, and well funded, public university systems in the world. But the cherry on top has to be that UC workers get paid, on average, 25% less than their counterparts who work at community colleges and non-UC hospitals. As an alumnus of UC, the fact that the workers who kept my campus beautiful and clean, most of them hard working people of color, are getting shafted and kept near poverty, makes me question the integrity and the priorities of a system that calls itself “the finest public institutions in the world.” If you wish to support these AFSCME union workers in their struggle for family-sustaining wages, they can be contacted at or 888-856-3299.